Utah will not be among the eight states expected to share a new federal allotment for family support programs for the handicapped.

The new money is intended to provide new support systems geared to keeping disabled family members at home rather than in institutions.Sue Marquardt, representing the Utah Human Services Department's division of services to the handicapped, said Utah will instead take advantage of some 400 Medicaid-waiver slots to beef up family support services until federal allocations become available to all states.

Marquardt said the move does not signal a lack of interest on the state's part, only a belief that the money needed to write a proposal for participation could be better spent elsewhere in the division.

Marquardt gave the division advisory board an update on the program Thursday.

Division officials believe a supplemental $100,000 allocation from the Legislature that was approved in February can be used to attract another $300,000 in federal matching funds.

"We're still interested in the family support program, but we believe we can do the same thing under our current waiver," Marquardt said. "By the time we reach the cap, the program should be open to all states."

Director Ric Zaharia said the division's northern service area, which includes most of the Wasatch Front, is best prepared to participate, but the demand for family support services appears greatest in the central service area. He expresses some concern that rural areas might not have the staff needed to make effective use of the added funding, even though these areas might have greater need.

"We're going to have to put all the variables in the pot and stir it up and see how we can do this best," Zaharia said.

Marquardt said the division does not plan to study individual areas. Instead, case managers will play a key role in identifying those who might benefit most from the added support.

Zaharia said the division has been careful to adhere to current board policy of not using the program's $650,000 base budget to attract additional Medicaid funding. He said that approach will not change unless the board provides new directions.

Human Services Director Norm Angus said it doesn't make sense to forsake federal matching funds if there are people needing service that could benefit from the added money.

The board has been reluctant to commit all of its funding for Medicaid matching funds, fearing services to people not qualified for Medicaid assistance would be left out of the program.

The board will devote much of its May meeting at the American Fork Training School to a review of the policy.

Board Chairman Mary Paulsen asked staff to contact all advocacy groups that might be affected by a change in policy to be at the meeting to provide comment. She also asked staff to develop a list of pros and cons for board consideration and review prior to the May meeting.